Project turns GPS phones into traffic reporters

Researchers at UC Berkeley and Nokia will test a new system, called Mobile Millennium, which uses GPS phone data to monitor traffic conditions.

Researchers from Nokia and the University of California in Berkeley will go live with a new project this week that aims to cull GPS data from thousands of mobile phones in order to tell drivers which San Francisco Bay Area roads are backed up and which are moving along.

Called Mobile Millennium, the project will be opened to the public on Monday.

Researchers hope that thousands of volunteers will download a free Java program that figures out by their movement and location when they are driving, and then transmits that information to the project's servers, which then crunch it into a Bay Area traffic map. The software uses algorithms to determine when people are moving or if they are stuck in traffic or stopped by the roadside, for example.

California has already invested heavily in sensors that help monitor traffic conditions on major roadways, but they're not everywhere. By collecting traffic information from GPS (Global Positioning System) phones on roads that don't have sensors, the team hopes to gain insight into places that are now blind spots for most commuters.

Researchers will start by looking for data on heavily trafficked commutes such as Page Mill Road and the Oregon Expressway, which cut through the heart of Palo Alto, California. If enough volunteers download the software, the researchers could eventually build a comprehensive picture of Bay Area traffic conditions.

"The whole concept here is that if everyone shares just a little bit of what they're seeing ... then everyone can benefit by seeing the conditions ahead of them," said Quinn Jacobson, a research leader with Nokia in Palo Alto.

The system doesn't require many users, but it helps if they're spread out, as researchers will need the right concentration of reports. The Mobile Millennium team expects to have 10,000 users by April. "At that rate we'll see many of these arterial roads with accurate, real-time data," Jacobson said.

While the idea of streaming data about their whereabouts may make some people uneasy, researchers say they've taken steps to keep the system anonymous. None of the data in the system can be tied to a particular mobile phone, they said.

The researchers have been testing the traffic reporting system every few weeks over the past year, including a large field-test in February.

Mobile Millennium's data will be available on the Web, but users who want the best data will have to download the Java software, Jacobson said. The software will eventually work on most GPS-enabled phones that run on GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) networks, such as those from T-Mobile and AT&T. On Monday, the software will run on Nokia and BlackBerry phones, but the team expects to add many other devices to this list.

The team is discussing an iPhone port as well, although this will not be available on Monday, Jacobson said.

Because Mobile Millennium phones do a lot of traffic reporting, only users with unlimited data plans are advised to sign up.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags researchGPS

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?